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24 July 2015

Donald's Trump card

Donald's Trump card

It may have escaped the attention of most of us in the UK, but in the US the campaigns to become the next presidential candidates are in full swing.

While the Democrat party process seems to be dominated by the well-funded and seriously-connected Hilary Clinton, the Republican side of things seems more open with a variety of candidates.

Among those who have announced their desire to be the next party leader and presidential hopeful are: Jeb Bush (of the Bush dynasty), Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and …Donald Trump. Yes, that's right. Donald Trump. From having no formal political background or experience, the eccentric billionaire businessman and property developer has decided that he's the man to save America.

Described as "the mud-slinging mogul with a complicated hair-do and a flair for the dramatic", Trump's campaign got off to a bizarre start –to say the least –and has been dogged by a series of controversies. He is presently polling in the lead at 17 per cent. This probably won't last, but when you review Trump's public record, the lead is as astonishing as it is disturbing.

With the strategy that there's "no business like showbusiness", Trump's campaign started with a splash by mounting a ferocious attack on Mexicans. Yes, Mexicans. Alongside an economic critique, Trump described them as being mostly criminals;carriers of infectious diseases;rapists and terrorists. When the stunned media circus finally started asking him questions, things got even worse. Trump suggested that those who attacked New York on 9/11 could well have been Mexicans. Needless to say, the large and critically important Hispanic voting bloc in the US did not appreciate these caricatures and Trump piñatas quickly sold out.

Despite public outrage, threats of law suits and the withdrawal of large business deals by, among others, Carlos Slim –the richest man in the world and a Mexican –in recent days Trump has continued this sensationalist campaigning. A range of incendiary remarks and personal attacks on the other Republicans, included questioning Senator John McCain's war hero status on TV.

Maybe Trump sees this approach as strategically necessary? On one level, we could look at all of this and accept it as the rough and tumble of politics, seeing it as another example of its growing convergence with entertainment. But this is serious stuff. It's about the race to lead the most powerful nation on earth. So, issues of judgment and character should be really important. And so should faith.

When questioned about his faith, Trump replied by saying that he goes to church and is 'religious', yet also states that he's never seen any need to ask God for forgiveness for anything. To be fair to him, this is a standard response for rich and powerful liberal elites wishing to appeal to a Christian constituency, and not dissimilar to Blair or Cameron's, in my opinion, slippery and selective spiritualities.

Even so, despite all the bluff and bluster of people like Donald Trump, there is an inescapable, universal truth for him. In the words of Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility". And stewarding power for the good of all requires wisdom. There's a strong link throughout the Bible between wisdom and humility. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom," (Psalm 111) and "God opposes the proud, but shows favour to the humble," (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). This 'opposition' from God is described elsewhere as a 'hatred' of arrogance or 'haughtiness'.

When people abuse wealth and power and look down on others or belittle them for their own gain, there's always a price to pay: "I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless." (Isaiah 13:11)

In our fallen world, power, wealth and education are not synonymous with wisdom. Indeed, as Trump's campaigning shows, if these things reduce the need for humility, they may well prove to be problematic. Perhaps this is why Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?

And in the clammer among the powerful to be top dog in the US presidential campaign, it's also worth recalling these other words of Jesus: "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Mark 8:36) Perspective is everything.